Passport to Higher Education: A Global Payments Study 

As the education field recovers from 2 years significantly disrupted due to the pandemic, Flywire looked at the attitudes of students from five countries about pursuing and paying for education.
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COVID-19 had a dramatic impact on education during the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years. Institutions were forced to move classes online, on-campus activities were curtailed, travel restrictions limited international study opportunities, and many students delayed enrollment due to uncertainties about education amid a global pandemic. In addition, the disruption put even more financial pressure on students and families already concerned about the cost of higher education.     

Despite these numerous challenges, students are anxious to return to campus, and the demand for global education is stronger than ever. A new independent survey of 1,010 higher education students in five different countries explored students’ attitudes regarding the following topics: 

  • Returns to school
  • International studies 
  • Curriculum preferences
  • Student visas
  • Education costs

Uncertainty has been the prevailing theme for both institutions and students since the pandemic’s onset in spring 2020. But times are changing, with the upcoming fall 2021 semester expected to be a chance for many institutions to return to something resembling normal, with enrollments up and students returning to campuses and classrooms.

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The pandemic greatly affected international student enrollment at many institutions. COVID concerns, travel restrictions, and the uncertainty of what campus life would look like severely limited many students’ study abroad plans. That is changing. As institutions look to solidify enrollments for the upcoming school year, many have confirmed their plans to fully open their campuses, though some will require students to be vaccinated before their arrival. 

To better understand the outlook for global education for the fall 2021 semester, Flywire conducted an independent survey of 1,010 higher education students in five countries —Australia, Canada, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States—about returning to school, studying internationally, making curriculum decisions, obtaining student visas, and paying for their education. The results provide a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the future.

Demand for global education remains high among students in all five countries, with students motivated primarily by the opportunity for new cultural experiences and the academic reputation of international schools. Students are also looking forward to returning to the classroom, with more than half of those surveyed indicating a preference for in-person learning. 

One concern that has not diminished is the growing cost of education and how to pay for it financially and logistically. The process of making tuition payments continues to be a source of stress for students and families. Many students and families are looking for simpler, more flexible payment processes, and others would like assistance in payment installment plan options, specifically in the United States, as a way to reduce student debt.

To learn more about students’ expectations about the upcoming academic year, sign up to see the complete results of the survey.  •

About International Educator

International Educator is NAFSA’s flagship publication and has been published continually since 1990. As a record of the association and the field of international education, IE includes articles on a variety of topics, trends, and issues facing NAFSA members and their work. 

From in-depth features to interviews with thought leaders and columns tailored to NAFSA’s knowledge communities, IE provides must-read context and analysis to those working around the globe to advance international education and exchange.


NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. NAFSA's 10,000 members are located at more than 3,500 institutions worldwide, in over 150 countries.